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VSA in Tokelau

Flag of Tokelau

VSA began work in Tokelau in 1987, working mainly with the Tokelau Department of Education to strengthen its capacity to provide quality education opportunities for children and young people. Our most recent volunteer completed her assignment in May 2013. We do not currently have any volunteers working in Tokelau.


Living and Working in Tokelau


Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic Tokelauan language materials prior to volunteers going on assignment and encourage you to learn the language from the local people while in Tokelau.

Understanding and respecting local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Tokelau is a small, isolated community and volunteers need to be aware of how this will impact on day-to-day life. Tokelauans are strongly religious and church-based activities will take precedence over all other activities in the village, including school and work. 

Housing and living conditions

Partner organisations provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. All power is generator-based and the supply varies between the atolls.  All our volunteer housing will have gas facilities for cooking.  Water is collected through rainwater tanks and volunteers need to conserve water during dry periods.

Dress standards

Tokelau is a conservative country and some Western style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best.  For men choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional or religious events.

Health

Skin infections can develop quickly in the tropical climate so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are health clinics staffed by nurses on each of the atolls and there is a generally a doctor on at least one atoll. However, health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.  

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. In general, there are few security issues, although be aware that you will be living in a small, isolated community where everyone knows everything about each other.

Banking and finances

Volunteers set up a bank account at the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (TALO) in Samoa on the way to Tokelau. Tokelau is a cash society and volunteers are able to withdraw cash from the TALO agent on each atoll. The NZ dollar is the currency in Tokelau.

Cell phones and email

Tokelau does not have a cell phone network at present.  Internet is via ’broadband‘ but this is still slow and limited compared to New Zealand.  Internet access will either be through the partner organisation or at the Teletok (local Telecom) office – there are no internet cafes.  Volunteers can make international phone calls from the Teletok office. It is also possible to set up a landline in your own home (at your own cost), although line rental and calls are very expensive.

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In-country partner profile

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Meet Ryan Brown

An interview with Ryan Brown, Programme Manager (Polynesia)

Ryan is our Programme Manager for Polynesia.

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Quick facts

  • Population
    1,384 (July 2011 est.)
  • HDI rating
    No HDI rating
  • Capital city
    None – each atoll has its own administrative centre
  • Official languages
    Tokelauan, English
  • Life expectancy
    No data
  • Literacy rate
    No data
  • GDP per capita
    US$1,000 (1993 est)
  • VSA volunteers
    43 since 1987
Source: CIA Factbook

See how this compares to NZ standards

NZ Quick Facts


  • New Zealand’s wildlife is dominated by an estimated 245 bird species. New Zealand has more flightless bird species than any other place on earth and no native land mammals except for bats.

  • Auckland is the biggest city. The other main centres are Hamilton, Wellington (the capital), Christchurch and Dunedin.

  • New Zealand has a Human Development Index rating of 6.

  • Polynesian settlers arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand around the 10th century. The first Europeans to visit the country were Dutch explorers led by Abel Tasman in 1642.

  • The Māori name for the country is Aotearoa: “land of the long white cloud.” The English name New Zealand comes from the Dutch Nieuw Zeeland, a region in the Netherlands.

  • In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi established British law and government, and was followed by warfare in the 1840s and 1860s as Māori sought to defend their lands and local authority. The country became a dominion of Britain in 1907 and became independent in

  • The official languages are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language.

  • New Zealand has more than 50 volcanoes, some of which are still active.

  • New Zealand has about 0.1% of the world’s population, but produces about 0.3% of the world’s material output.

Contact

If you are interested in becoming an in-country partner organisation with VSA in Tokelau, contact us at the address below. Alternatively, email us by clicking the 'Contact us' button right at the bottom of this page.

VSA, PO Box 12246, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND



Tokelau is an external territory administered by New Zealand, situated 500km north of Samoa and consisting of three atolls: Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. Each is separated by 100 to 150km of open sea. There are only around 1,400 Tokelauans living across the three atolls, although a further 6,000 are now living in New Zealand. Tokelau is one of the most isolated places in the world, only accessible by a 30-hour boat trip from Samoa.

Tokelau has a system of governance based on a Taupulega or Council of Elders. There is a Taupulega on each atoll which is representative of local families. The Taupulega directs village activities and representatives from each Taupulega make up the General Fono (the parliament of Tokelau). Life on the atolls is quite structured and many traditional customs are still practised. The population is predominately Christian.

In economic development, Tokelau’s key challenges stem from its isolation and lack of viable land to undertake any large scale agriculture. The majority of Tokelau’s income is provided through aid from New Zealand and remittances from Tokelauans living overseas.

 

VSA in Tokelau

Social challenges in Tokelau are linked to the small population and the limited capacity to supply facilities and services for all three atolls. A lack of trained teachers and lack of senior secondary schools are pressing issues. VSA volunteers have worked with the Tokelau Department of Education to strengthen its ongoing capacity to provide quality education for children and young people.

Find out more about VSA's involvement in Tokelau by reading our case study:  Rethinking Tokelau Education.

Living and Working in Tokelau


Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic Tokelauan language materials prior to volunteers going on assignment and encourage you to learn the language from the local people while in Tokelau.

Understanding and respecting local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Tokelau is a small, isolated community and volunteers need to be aware of how this will impact on day-to-day life. Tokelauans are strongly religious and church-based activities will take precedence over all other activities in the village, including school and work. 

Housing and living conditions

Partner organisations provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. All power is generator-based and the supply varies between the atolls.  All our volunteer housing will have gas facilities for cooking.  Water is collected through rainwater tanks and volunteers need to conserve water during dry periods.

Dress standards

Tokelau is a conservative country and some Western style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best.  For men choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional or religious events.

Health

Skin infections can develop quickly in the tropical climate so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are health clinics staffed by nurses on each of the atolls and there is a generally a doctor on at least one atoll. However, health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.  

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. In general, there are few security issues, although be aware that you will be living in a small, isolated community where everyone knows everything about each other.

Banking and finances

Volunteers set up a bank account at the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (TALO) in Samoa on the way to Tokelau. Tokelau is a cash society and volunteers are able to withdraw cash from the TALO agent on each atoll. The NZ dollar is the currency in Tokelau.

Cell phones and email

Tokelau does not have a cell phone network at present.  Internet is via ’broadband‘ but this is still slow and limited compared to New Zealand.  Internet access will either be through the partner organisation or at the Teletok (local Telecom) office – there are no internet cafes.  Volunteers can make international phone calls from the Teletok office. It is also possible to set up a landline in your own home (at your own cost), although line rental and calls are very expensive.

Living and Working in Tokelau
Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic Tokelauan language materials prior to volunteers going on assignment and encourage you to learn the language from the local people while in Tokelau.

Understanding and respecting local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Tokelau is a small, isolated community and volunteers need to be aware of how this will impact on day-to-day life. Tokelauans are strongly religious and church-based activities will take precedence over all other activities in the village, including school and work. 

Housing and living conditions

Partner organisations provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. All power is generator-based and the supply varies between the atolls.  All our volunteer housing will have gas facilities for cooking.  Water is collected through rainwater tanks and volunteers need to conserve water during dry periods.

Dress standards

Tokelau is a conservative country and some Western style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best.  For men choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional or religious events.

Health

Skin infections can develop quickly in the tropical climate so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are health clinics staffed by nurses on each of the atolls and there is a generally a doctor on at least one atoll. However, health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.  

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. In general, there are few security issues, although be aware that you will be living in a small, isolated community where everyone knows everything about each other.

Banking and finances

Volunteers set up a bank account at the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (TALO) in Samoa on the way to Tokelau. Tokelau is a cash society and volunteers are able to withdraw cash from the TALO agent on each atoll. The NZ dollar is the currency in Tokelau.

Cell phones and email

Tokelau does not have a cell phone network at present.  Internet is via ’broadband‘ but this is still slow and limited compared to New Zealand.  Internet access will either be through the partner organisation or at the Teletok (local Telecom) office – there are no internet cafes.  Volunteers can make international phone calls from the Teletok office. It is also possible to set up a landline in your own home (at your own cost), although line rental and calls are very expensive.